Every Child’s Hope

I’m very excited about an event coming up this weekend called Every Child’s Hope. It could mean great things for our foster children!

As many of you know, we have 800 foster children in care on any given day. Yet, we only have about 230 homes right now. We have lost more than 200 homes over the past five years. We rely on homes in private networks to help us, but even they are losing homes.

Having available local foster homes is important for many reasons. We do not want to move kids too far from their neighborhoods. They do better if they can stay in the same school and play with the same friends. We also want to make sure they are close enough to their biological families for regular visits. We also want to avoid breaking up siblings or overcrowding with too many unrelated children into one household.

The bottom line is, the more local foster homes we have, the better it is for children who have already had their lives turned upside down by abuse or neglect.

The Greater Cincinnati Coalition of Care, a group of Cincinnati-area churches concerned and committed to positively changing the lives of local foster children, recognized our dilemma and is trying to help. The group envisions a Greater Cincinnati where every church wraps itself around at least one child. How incredibly wonderful that would be!

So the coalition has put together Every Child’s Hope for this weekend. It is a series of events designed to draw awareness to the need for foster parents. The weekend is highlighted by national speakers and educational workshops on Saturday at Landmark Church, 1600 Glendale-Milford Road.

The speakers include:

— Chris Padbury, the executive director of Project 1.27 in Colorado. This session will provide a general overview of what every church ministry should know about the foster care system and how church and church-based ministries can effectively minister in this challenging area. Padbury is the father of six adopted children; he and his wife, Sarah, have adopted through every means possible in the United States, including international and domestic private agencies, an adoption lawyer outside the state and most recently through the Colorado foster care system.

— Bishop W. C. Martin, pastor of a Baptist church in Possum Trot, Texas, speaking on how one small church can overcome obstacles to bring love to the “least of these.” This session will tell the story of how his small Texas church of 200 has helped families adopt 80 children. Martin, who has appeared on Oprah and other television shows, wrote the best-selling book, Small Town, Big Miracle about the experience.

— Holly Schlaack, a program manager at ProKids, an agency that advocates on behalf of abused and neglected children, who has written a book called Invisible Kids, which provides an insiders look into the foster care system. In her work with ProKids, Schlaack has combined effective social work, dedicated volunteers and child development experts to create a program for abused and neglected children that serves as a model for court-appointed advocacy programs around the country. Schlaack was recently recognized by the Ohio House of Representatives for her work with Ohio’s most vulnerable citizens.

The workshops will include discussions on the process to become a foster parent, foster parents talking about their experiences, other ways to help foster children and much more. There will be kid-friendly events and nearly 40 local exhibitors who help young people will be on hand to provide information on ways to help.

If you have ever thought about becoming a foster parent, or just want to support the cause, I hope you will join us Saturday for an event that could really change the landscape for Hamilton County foster children. Visit www.everychildshope.info for more information.

See you there!


Other Counties Notice Our Success

Back in the fall, JFS’ Family & Adult Assistance section started a new process called Case Banking. With the new process, food stamp and cash assistance clients no longer had specific workers assigned to their individual cases – their cases are now managed by a group of eligibility technicians. Instead of scheduling an appointment, Medicaid, food stamps and Ohio Works First (OWF) cash assistance applicants (with the exception of certain cases) are served on a first-come, first-served basis at our downtown location. Without this system, some might wait for a month or longer for an appointment. That’s how busy we are right now.

When the agency started this process, we were one of the few counties in Ohio to use the Case Banking initiative; our FAA officials developed a process similar to Butler County’s program. And I am pleased to say that due to the great work done by our FAA workers in transitioning to Case Banking, other counties want to see how we were able to make it a success.

About a month ago, a group from Clark County visited the agency to learn more about the initiative; this week FAA section chiefs and managers hosted a group from Licking County who wanted to acquire more information about how Case Banking works.

Seeing the great work that our employees do day-in and day-out, I know that we are already one step ahead of the game, especially when it comes to helping our clients. And I am glad that other counties are taking notice and seeing our employees hard work for themselves.

It took a lot of hard work from many people throughout the agency to make this initiative work. While there may have been a few glitches here and there during the transition, I am proud of our employees for stepping up. They knew in the end it was a way to provide better customer service for our clients.

Anytime another county wants to visit to learn about our agency, I know it is because they have heard about the hard work that is done by our employees. And I, for one, am proud to tell anyone about the dedication I see every day from JFS employees. We welcome any other Ohio county officials who would like to see it for themselves, too.

Live Private Chats About Child Support

We recently began offering live, private chats with Hamilton County residents who have child support cases. This is a quick and convenient way to ask questions about your case.

We have offered public chats for several months now, but many people wanted case-specific information that was confidential and we could not put it out in the public domain. So, we developed a way to conduct one-on-one chats that are only seen by the client.

We have checked, and it looks like we are the first in Ohio to do something like this. We do not have a way to check if it is being done anywhere else in the country, but I have to believe we are among the few. This is one more step in being an accessible, progressive entity to the people we serve.

Foster Care Month off to great start

Foster Care Month is off to a great start with good participation in our live chat (one person even requested a sign-up packet after thinking about becoming a foster parent for a long time), coverage in the Enquirer, and support of the local social community.

A top local “mommy blogger” did a piece on our new TV commercial and www.hckids.org Web site, and several people “retweeted” — or forwarded — information about foster care. Our new TV commercial got almost 300 views on our YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/hcjfs).

Interest has been good for an informational session at 6 p.m. Monday at 237 William H. Taft Road.

And we’re excited about upcoming events such as Foster Care Day on Fountain Square, Butterflies and Blue Ribbons and Every Child’s Hope weekend.

Hamilton County has a severe shortage of foster parents. We’re doing what we can to encourage people to step up and fill the need. I appreciate your support.

New Foster Care Web site and Video

We released a new foster care video and created a new Web site for foster care and adoption recruitment this month, which is national Foster Care Month. Check out the video at the new site, www.hckids.org .

I think it is fantastic! Really touching. I know I have touched on this before, but we have more than 850 foster children on any given day and more than 200 available for adoption. This video really helps drive home the point that we need this community to step up and help these children.

We also have several other things going on this month to celebrate foster care:

May 6: A live chat about foster care will take place at 10 a.m. Residents with questions about foster parenting can join the chat at http://www.hcjfs.org .

May 11: An Open House for those interested in foster parenting will be held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the agency’s 237 William H. Taft Road offices.

May 13: The Southwest Ohio Family Care Affiliate will host “Butterflies and Blue Ribbons” at the Krohn Conservatory to honor local foster families.

May 19: The Everyday Heroes collaborative will host Foster Care on the Square and distribute foster care information from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fountain Square.

May 29 to 31: Every Child’s Hope Weekend, hosted by The Greater Cincinnati Coalition of Care, a group of Cincinnati-area churches concerned and committed to positively changing the lives of local foster children, will feature:

● Friday concert by singer/comedian Chonda Pierce, who makes frequent appearances at the Grand Ole Opry
● Saturday speeches by nationally-known speakers affiliated with churches answering the call on foster care and adoption, as well as a local author offering an insider’s view on the foster care system
● Saturday workshops to answer your questions about foster care and adoption
● Sunday sermons to more than 11,000 people on responding to the challenge of local foster care and adoption.

The Every Child’s Hope events are open to the public and take place at Landmark Church, 1600 Glendale-Milford Road.

I really appreciate SWOFCA and the Coalition of Care for all they do to help our children and support this agency! Thanks everyone!